What Is Considered Cardio Exercise?

Swimming is considered a cardio exercise, but you've got to do more than just float in a pool for optimal health benefits.
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It would be wonderful if sitting on the couch eating a bag of chips were considered cardio exercise, but this is not the case. Cardio exercise has many outlets in the fitness industry, but simply getting your heart rate raised through repeated movements of arms, legs and even your booty will do the trick. Cardio exercise benefits many aspects of your everyday, including your mood, your health and even your concentration.


    There’s no magic formula when it comes to cardio. Cardio exercise is also known as cardiovascular exercise or aerobic exercise. During cardio activity, you move the large muscles of your legs, hips, butt and arms, which in turn makes your heart beat faster. You’ll also find that you breathe faster and more deeply. This increases the blood flow to your limbs and muscles and then back to your lungs. Many activities qualify as cardio exercise, such as swimming, bicycling, walking, jogging, tennis, basketball and even jumping rope.

Maximum Heart Rate

    Another way of measuring exercise is by your maximum heart rate. To receive all the benefits of cardio exercise you’ll need to work hard enough to increase your heart rate to its target zone. First find out what your maximum heart rate is to determine your target zone. To do so, subtract your age from 220. For example, a 30-year-old will have a maximum heart rate of 190 beats per minute. Beginners to cardio exercise should target a moderate heart rate of 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. For a 30-year-old that would be 95 to 133 beats per minute. As you become used to cardio exercise, increase the intensity and target heart rate to 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.


    To get the most benefit out of your cardio workout the intensity of the exercise should be fall somewhere between moderate or vigorous, according to MayoClinic.com. It’s important to find a balance when working out. Gauging how you feel during your workout is a safe way to exercise and increase the intensity as you become stronger. For beginners, start with a light exercise intensity. You’ll notice you can easily keep up a conversation during your workout and you’ll also not see a difference in your breathing pattern. Moderate exercise intensity feels different. You’ll perspire a little after 10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise and your breath will also quicken. With vigorous intensity you’ll definitely feel challenged. You won’t be able to talk more than a few words without stopping for a moment to breathe and you’ll start sweating after just a few minutes of vigorous exercise.


    For moderate cardio exercise, aim for at least 150 minutes per week, according to the American Heart Association. For those who are interested in vigorous exercise, the American Heart Association suggests at least 75 minutes per week at this intensity. You can spread cardio workouts throughout the week, five days a week for 30 minutes, or you can divide your time up into two or three segments per day, with 10 to 15 minutes of exercise per segment.

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